Toxic Chemicals in the Home May Double Your Risk of Breast Cancer

We all like to have clean homes but it’s shocking to think that the very things that you probably use to keep your house clean may double your risk of breast cancer. You might think that you are safe from environmental toxins and pollution when you are in your home but some of the most toxic chemicals in the home today may be the ones you buy and bring into it.

Indoor air pollutants are not so easily dispersed as outdoor ones. Concentrations of toxic chemicals in your home linked with cancer can be 200 – 500 times higher than outside. Studies have shown that women working at home have a 55% increased risk of of breast cancer over those who go out to work.

Detox your bodyThe latest research from The Silent Spring Institute in the United States showed that if you are a female who regularly uses household cleaners and air fresheners your risk of developing breast cancer is double that of those who never use the products. Solid slow-release air fresheners and anti-mould products had the biggest effect while insect repellents, oven and surface cleaners also produced a slight increase.

The researchers themselves say that there could be some bias to the results as women with breast cancer may over estimate their use of cleaning products. Even so, other research has shown that these products are toxic and contain ingredients that can cause cancer. So let’s have a look at the products the researchers have highlighted.

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are big business. Although we all want our homes to smell fresh if you use synthetic air fresheners you are putting your health at risk from one of the most concentrated sources of poisons in your home. Far from freshening it they just interfere with your ability to detect smells or simply cover them up while adding considerable indoor pollution.

If you use air fresheners you expose yourself to formaldehye, benzene, styrene which are known or suspected carcinogens and toluene a liver and kidney irritant. Air fresheners available in the USA may also contain phthalates, a family of chemicals known as estrogen mimics that can cause hormonal abnormalities and birth defects.  It’s worrying that researchers have also discovered that some air fresheners labelled as natural or non-scented contained phthalates.

What’s more, the chemicals from air fresheners can react with other substances to become even more dangerous. Terpenes such as d-limonene, linalool and linalyl acetate released by some air fresheners react with ozone and form formaldeyde for which there is strong evidence that it can cause cancer in humans.

Mould and Mildew Cleaners

Although not listed as such most contain formaldehyde a highly toxic and known carcinogenic chemical. It can go under more than 50 different names and may be listed as a preservative but formaldehyde damages DNA, is an irritant to eyes, nose, throat, and skin and may cause nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, memory loss and shortness of breath. It is banned in Japan and Sweden.

All Purpose Household Cleaners

In spite of the huge array of cleansing products to choose from with all their different claims of cleaning power they generally contain the same toxic chemical ingredients. Many cleaners contain DEA and TEA which can react with added nitrites to form carcinogenic nitrosomines which readily penetrate the skin. Many coloured products are made with carcinogenic coal tar colours. Hormone disrupting parabens may be used as preservatives.

Cleaners may contain ammonia, a strong irritant which can also cause kidneyand liver damage, butyl cellusolve which is neurotoxic and rapidly penetrates skin, and ortho phenylphenol which is a severe eye and skin irritant.

What are estrogen mimics?

They are a class of chemicals that resemble the female hormone estrogen. They can attach themselves to estrogen receptors in cells blocking the action of the natural hormone. They disrupt the delicate hormonal balance of your body and disturb metabolism contributing to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, difficulty in losing weight, infertility and other problems linked with hormonal imbalances.  Both men and women can be affected by these chemicals.

Over 60 substances have been identified as environmental or estrogen mimics. These include DDT, dioxin and PCB. They are released from industrial processes and agricultural sprays and make their way into your diet through food and water.

Keep your house clean naturally

Old fashioned hot soapy (natural of course) water and a bit of elbow grease cleans just as well if not better than chemical based products. It’s ironic isn’t it that these cleaning products were made to make our lives easier but they are poisoning and killing us?

Mold & Mildew

Tackle mold with tea tree oil: mix 2 teaspoons tea tree oil with 2 cups of water and in a spray bottle and use as necessary. Ot try this: mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing off.

General Cleaning

Bicarbonate of soda can be used for general cleaning. Simply put a little on a damp sponge for most surfaces. For tough stains, add a little water to 1 tablespoonful of the powder, smear on and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse off.

For an all purpose cleaner combine 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp liquid soap,  2 cups hot tap water in a spray bottle and mix thoroughly

To make a stronger cleaning solution: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.

Fortunately there are more and more natural ecological household cleaning products coming onto the market if you want the convenience of ready made products. But if you want to reduce your risk of breast and other cancers it’s wise to get rid of the toxic chemicals in your home and detox the ones you already have in your body.

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  1. No authoritative or regulatory body anywhere in the world classifies styrene to be a known cause of human cancer. Moreover, a study conducted by a “blue ribbon” panel of epidemiologists and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (November 2009) reports: “The evidence of human carcinogenicity of styrene is inconsistent and weak. On the basis of the available evidence, one cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship between styrene and any type of human cancer.”

    Priscilla Briones for the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), Arlington, Virginia. SIRC ( is a trade association representing interests of the North American styrene industry with its mission being the collection, development, analysis and communication of pertinent information on styrene.

    • Thank you for your comment. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified styrene as a Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans. I have read that Styrene oxide,a reactive metabolite of styrene, has shown positive carcinogenic effects.

  2. Janette Heffernan says:

    Very sensible article. I do so agree about bicarbonate of soda. Wonderful stuff. No bacteria can live in it. I use it as a mouthwash twice a day and after years of problems I now have no gingivitis at all.

    • Thanks for the great tip Janette. Another method is to dip dip your toothbrush into a capful of peroxide to moisten the bristles then dip the brush into the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). The powder will adhere to the moistened bristles and can be applied with the brush along the gum line to beat plaque.


  3. This issue is more concern about the risk that we acquire through using products which we don’t have any proper information what it can cause us once we had in contact and used the product more often. Information really counts since it makes you determine radicals that can be a great risk on your health, this is why we must see the package insert first or the information provided at the back portion of the product and else be informative through reading and asking relevant questions.

    • Hi Akhira, And there is also the fact that only single chemicals have ever been tested. There is concern that the number of chemicals that people accumulate in their bodies can be even more harmful that one chemical.

      Good health


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